Kiss For My Twenty-Year-Old Self
Oh how I wasted that body,
the smooth obedient muscles,
the carefree suppleness of joints.
How I belittled her, pointing to
other bodies and asking
why she couldn’t be a hat stand
when she was as lush
as a summer pond.
I wish I could have her
once more, all that glorious
skin, now I know
what to do with it, and to do it
over and over again.
The Boy I Would Die Without
When she asked why love was so hard
I wanted to say You don’t know anything
because what could she know, being
only eighteen, but then I remembered
the sweetness, the pain of believing
I would die without him, the boy I loved
so much he was with me everywhere,
even washing myself in the dorm shower
after we’d made love wherever we could
make love, even then he was all over me,
in me, I could taste him through everything
I said, everything I dreamed—I would die
if something parted us, if he were sent to war
or our parents forbade us to see each other,
I would die, lie down on the tiled floor
of that shower with all those girls’ voices
calling out to one another around me and die.
Of course nothing of the sort occurred.
There was a war but he managed to escape it
in graduate school. My parents forbade me
to see him and at first I defied them, I lied,
because love, love, but slowly I couldn’t
and besides, he had doubts, I had doubts,
love, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, until
one day I said I can’t, I just can’t anymore,
and the look he gave me then—
So I told her, this girl before me,
I told her love was hard by definition,
and when it was gone, she would die,
too, the way I died then, but the thing is,
I told her, the thing is you go on
even without it, you live, the longing
everywhere with you, your hands
or face, your back or feet,
the body he never stops touching.
Some nights I think of you in that one flannel
shirt standing on the sidewalk underneath
a black field of sky. Some days I can feel
you over my shoulder and hear your voice flutter
and echo in my heart like, look at all the beautiful.
Today you’re the boy with the dangling feet
afraid to climb up the jungle gym. You shout:
I haven’t done this in years. Then I watch you
do it anyway. Now you keep a life in the dark
of my mouth. You wait on me to remember
how to speak.
The Man Has a Heart Like a Kite
and he knows it, knows it’s a bad idea.
For one thing, the wind keeps pushing him around,
wheeling him in spirals,
lifting him halfway to Venus
then watching him drop.
He’s sick of crash landings, fed up
with hanging upside down in trees—
a mouth full of feathers and twigs in his nose.
But don’t ask what I think; I’m the same way.
I won’t advise him to grab more gravity,
won’t offer him bowls of stone soup;
what good is a kite in the garage?
Suppose he breaks his neck next time, so what;
no one’s impressed by caution,
or sprawls on the couch, reading books about it,
or goes to the park with a rock on the end of a string.
[Previously appeared in Story Problems (Somondoco Press, 2011)]
What I Don’t Want To Know:
That a wet miserable summer
makes for glorious fall color.
That my sister cries as she dreams.
That a major league ballplayer fails to get a hit
70 or 75 percent of the time.
That I will never have a child.
That the sun will burn out.
That everything I’ve seen or heard or touched is recorded
in my brain waiting for the technician’s probe.
That in your own way you love me.
Kiss Under the Heavy Trees
It’s March in Florida and I hang
my head out the window as I drive by bushes and weeds,
anything green, and the world is beginning to smell
musky and growing, is beginning to sing
of the myriad pleasures of sex. And my
neck is a secret canvas, a dark
sheltering the sweetest stream,
gardenia-stroked, gilded. Now
is the time to ask me
everything. I will tell you
about the last time
I imagined my death, the relief
I felt, like when the flowers have finally gone
past saving in the vase on the counter
and there is nothing to do
but throw them out. It is
all right. I am not
embarrassed. Who has not been
that tired? Except
in the spring-going-on-
summer, when afternoon is just practicing
for night, for the rubbing together
of thighs to make music,
the open mouth filling itself
again and again with the carnal air.
Happy Valentine’s Day from Escape Into Life. You can find more love poems by clicking the links below to other Valentine features here at EIL. Click on each poet’s name to find her or his solo poetry feature, and click on Jesse McCloskey’s name to learn more about the artist.